“Pluto” is a masterclass in how to adapt and reimagine popular franchises for a new generation. Ever since the story arc was first published in the 1952 “Astro Boy” manga, it has been re-adapted three times, each with small and subtle differences.
Rather than follow in the same footsteps and make this another family-friendly superhero saga, “Pluto” radically changes the tone and reinvents the arc as a mature detective story — as if Disney let David Lynch remake one of their classic animated movies as a prestige Showtime limited series. Indeed, much like with “Monster,” this anime is presented in a cinematic way. From the sharp, naturalist dialogue to the realism in the visuals (particularly the character animation) and even the deliberate pacing gives “Pluto” a feeling of auteur filmmaking that is uncommon in modern anime shows. Like “Monster,” a lot is owed to the realism of the character designs, which feature characters of all shapes and sizes.
Each of the eight episodes of “Pluto” is an hour long. The length allows each episode to cover a rather vast amount of story. Take the first episode, in which we first meet the robot detective, learn about the case and its importance, and are introduced to a very Hannibal Lecter-esque killer robot, all before we cut to a story of a blind composer who refuses to think a robot could play music with real emotion. Much like “Monster,” this anime excels at making each character feel alive and important. Though there is very much a main story, we get to know each of the strongest robots, the people around them, their struggles, and dreams. There is at least one tear-inducing moment in each of the episodes, which makes the robots appear more human than even the human characters.